Amanda Makulec is a Monitoring and Evaluation Associate, John Snow Inc.

In a time of international economic uncertainty, it is more important than ever for donor agencies to ensure global health dollars are being spent wisely for maximum health impact.  Investing in maternal and reproductive health programs around the world has supported a one-third reduction in maternal mortality since 1990, and saved the lives of millions. Moving forward, donor agencies are committed to maintaining and continuing that success through new mechanisms for providing basic maternal, newborn, and child health services which leverage both public and private resources and through integrated programs to improve service delivery,  like USAID’s Maternal and Child Health Integrated Program (MCHIP).

One such coordinated effort is the Alliance for Reproductive, Maternal, and Newborn Health (the Alliance), which was born over a year ago to support progress towards MDGs four and five in ten priority countries, including Bangladesh, Ethiopia, India, Indonesia, Kenya, Nepal, Nigeria, Pakistan, Tanzania, and Uganda. Together, these countries account for around 68% of unmet need for family planning globally, 54% of maternal deaths, and 56% of all neonatal mortality. The Alliance’s public sector partners include USAID, the Australian Agency for International Development (AusAID), and the UK Department for International Development (DfID). The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation contributes its private donor funds and expertise to the core group of partners.

While Alliances and Coalitions seem to spring up often in today’s globally-connected era, this partnership strategically focuses on fostering local country ownership of programs, emphasizing cost-effective spending of donor dollars through improved coordination across agencies, and ensuring it does not create parallel systems for working with countries, providing services, or monitoring and evaluation of its work, instead leveraging existing mechanisms.

Together, these tenets support a coordinated effort to improve maternal and reproductive health worldwide, reducing redundancies in programming and providing a mechanism for sharing learning and best practices across donor agencies. Over the course of the Alliance’s first year, partners have worked diligently to develop relationships with local governments, identify new approaches to long-acknowledged health challenges, and forge relationships with private corporations committed to investing in and improving global health outcomes.

Merck, who recently announced the launch of their Merck for Mothers Initiative, worked with the Alliance to develop a partnership focused on improving access to long-acting reversible contraceptive implants through cost reductions and innovative financing mechanisms. As a woman-controlled, simple method for family planning, implants have grown in popularity in developing countries. Through this partnership with Merck and the cost-reduction initiatives, up to 14.5 million additional women could have access to implants between now and 2015, preventing thousands of unintended pregnancies and saving the lives of both women and their babies. In Ethiopia alone, the government will save an estimated $2 million per year as a result of the program, and annual savings globally will be up to $10 million. This partnership is just one of the many the Alliance is pursuing with private organizations.

You can read more about the Alliance’s achievements globally and by country in their one year progress report.